Rockabilly was the punk scene of ’50s country music. The songs generally dealt with wanting some, getting some, losing that good thang, fighting, and driving fast. Singing about these subjects was not a very proper occupation for a girl, particularly in the White Bread ’50s. As a result, very few women did. Wanda Jackson was about the only one to come out of this scene and enjoy any later success. Without the acknowledgment of Elvis, even she may have faded into obscurity. Rockabilly has enjoyed a few broad revivals over the years, but it was and remains a man’s game.
Kim Lenz seems determined to change that. As the daughter of a Texas Rodeo Queen, she was exposed to the genre as a child, but only started singing a couple of years ago, after moving from California to return to Texas and finish a degree. After falling in with some musicians, and trying her hand at singing, she was hooked. She compares her love for the music to a heroin addiction. Her appearance is a total throwback to the ’50s. From her flaming red hairstyle to her vintage clothes, she draws stares wherever she goes.
This self-titled release is Lenz’s first full-length recording. It spans 14 songs in about 38 minutes, which kept making me wonder if my CD player was malfunctioning. I kept waiting for more. But two-and-a-half minute, direct-to-disk, monaural recorded songs fit right in with everything else. The vintage instruments, the classic subject matter, and the style all make for a record that could’ve been pulled right off of the Sun Studios shelves. It’s all there. The howls, the hiccups, the overwrought longing that is rockabilly. This is no hybrid. Lenz penned 9 of the songs, and I could not differentiate her writing from the few obscure classics that she covered.
She is backed by a very talented combo that includes Oklahoman Jake Erwin slappin’ the stand-up bass, Mike Lester on lead, and Robert Hamilton on drums. Producer Wally Hersom, of Big Sandy and the Fly Rite Boys, suffered through over 100 takes of some of these songs in order to get Lenz the sound and feel she was looking for, and they found it. This record is near perfect rockabilly, as a result of its purposeful imperfections. Hightone Records, 220 4th St. #101, Oakland, CA 94607